Thursday, July 28, 2011

Confessions of a Theatre Widow

When one is in a relationship with a theatre artist, one must reside oneself to frequent solitary evenings.  While the ones you enjoy the most are off being creative, you are left to be alone with your thoughts...or thought.

You are a theatre widow.

Or, if you are in the South, a thee-A-ter widduh.

To pass the time, you have folded all the laundry, answered emails, walked the pup, surfed the interweb, caught up on your TiVo, finished the great American novel, and called everyone you can think of only to be greeted by recorded voices because they too are in rehearsals.


There is only so much Battlestar Galactica you can watch in one sitting.

So instead of throwing yourself that all too familiar pity party, get cookin' instead and treat the ones you love to a post rehearsal, late nite supper!

You can still eat well, even though it's late.  Remember, food is not feed!

Roasted Beet and Grapefruit Salad

I just love me a beet.
If your beet greens aren't too tired, try throwing them into the mix!

Some spinach
Some arugula
3 beets
1 red grapefruit
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans
Goat cheese
Garlic, 2 cloves
Thyme bundle
Chili oil
Salt and pepper

Grapefruit Tarragon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450.  Trim and peel beets.  Using a sharp knife, cut beets into small cubes (about 1").  Transfer beets to a baking sheet along with the whole garlic cloves and thyme bundle.  Drizzle with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat and throw in the oven for 20 minutes or until beets are caramelized and tender.  Discard garlic and thyme, and allow to come to room temperature.

Slice each end off the grapefruit to give you a steady cutting situation. Using a sharp knife, remove rind and pith.  Segment the grapefruit and place in a bowl squeezing any remaining juice out of that sucker.

In a large bowl, toss greens, onions, and garbanzos in vinaigrette.  Transfer to individual plates and top with beets, grapefruit, goat cheese and a sprinkle of pistachios.

Grapefruit Tarragon Vinaigrette
This is a damn good salad!

Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 Tbl grapefruit zest
1 Tbl fresh tarragon
1 tsp tarragon vinegar
1 small shallot, diced
1 glove garlic, minced
1 Tbl stone ground mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
salt 'n pepper

In a small food processor, puree all of the ingredients excluding the oil.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil.  Deliciousness.

Chilled Fennel and Carrot Soup with Tarragon

Once pureed the soup takes on a delightfully creamy texture (and not a drop of cream in sight), perfect for a late nite supper or as a first course for lunch.  Serve warm in the fall/winter's tasty hot, too!

1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
8 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbl tarragon vinegar
1 1/2 Tbl tarragon
1 Tbl fennel fronds
4 cups chicken stock (or water)
Thyme bundle
2 Tbl olive oil
Salt 'n pepper

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium flame.  Add onions, fennel, and thyme bundle and saute for 5-7 minutes.  De glaze with vinegar and reduce liquid by at least half.  Add carrots and cook for an additional 10 minutes until carrots begin to soften.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat.  Add fresh tarragon and fennel fronds and simmer for 10 minutes. Take off heat and discard thyme.

Puree soup with an immersion blender (or working in small batches with a conventional blender).  Pass soup through a sieve.  Chill for 2 hours.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Revisiting my first video post

Vintage (and nasty lookin') Improvised Chef.

So here is how I did it.

Vietnamese Frittata

2 eggs
yo' left over rice noodles
4 green onions, chopped into 1/2" slices
1 tsp wasabi paste
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat eggs and wasabi paste together.  Add onions and noodles.  Combine ingredients well.  Heat 1 Tbl olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add noodle mixture and mush around until flat.  Yes...that is the technical term.  Mush it.  Cook for about 4 minutes until brown.  Carefully flip frittata (or grab another skillet of roughly the same size and turn out frittata).  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Serve with spinach tossed with a dressing of 2 parts hoisin sauce to one part red wine vinegar.

Please forgive my appearance.  It has been my last week of summer vacation, and I refused to shave.  Plus, how hot do you look after traveling for 18 hours?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Love them 'maters!

I love me a 'mater.

Sliced heirlooms sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.  A bright caprese drizzled with balsamic vinegar with tons of fresh basil.  Fresh grape tomatoes in a salad, exploding with 'matery goodness.  'Mater soup with a grilled cheese and 'mater sandwich. In braising sauces. In pastas. In couscous.  I love 'em.

However, some folks are not as enthusiastic about the tomato. 

Yet last night, I made a couple of skeptics true believers of the humble 'mater with the best darned side dish, perfect for steak or your backyard grill fest.

Roasted Tomatoes and Pepadews

Roasting the tomatoes with the garlic and thyme adds a wonderful depth of flavor, especially when combined with the bright, vinegary peppers and cilantro.

1 lb whole cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic (whole)
6-8 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup pepadew peppers, quartered
2 Tbl fresh cilantro
olive oil
salt 'n pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  On a baking sheet, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil onto the tomatoes, garlic cloves, and thyme.  Season them with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the flesh of the tomatoes begins to burst.  Set aside to cool slightly and discard garlic and thyme (although you may want to eat those roasty, toasty garlic cloves...yum).

In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, pepadews, and cilantro.  If it appears a bit dry, drizzle a little olive oil or pepadew vinegar over the whole shootin' match.  Toss together and serve. 

These are also fabulous at room temperature as the flavors will marry the longer they sit.  Just cover with plastic wrap.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Enthusiastic Thumbs up

When I first started this little project I had one goal in mind.

No, two.  Two goals in mind.

Wait....three.  Three.  I just thought of a third.

1)  To share my love of food and cooking.

2)  To encourage folks to step outside of their comfort zone and play with their food.

3)  I want to become the next Food Network Star (and become besties with Anne Burrell).

Last night, I experienced the most delightful combination of improvisation, food appreciation, humor and pathos:  a little film called The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Think if Woody Allen had made Sideways with Brits and set it in northern England rather than Napa.

Do your self a favor.  Whip up a delicious plate of scallops, pour yourself a glass of Gavi, and watch this flick!

Seared Scallops with Grapefruit, Fennel and Yellow Pepper

A super simple dish that will totally impress.  The brightness of the grapefruit is a fantastic complement to the succulent sweet taste of the scallops. If you are not a fan of the grapefruit, substitute oranges.

1 lb.  bay scallops
2 ruby red grapefruit 
1/2 cup fennel, shaved (about 1 small bulb) 
2 Tbl reserved fennel fronds
1/2 yellow pepper, julienned
3 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl Pernod
salt 'n pepper

In a mixing bowl, toss together the fennel, yellow pepper, and grapefruit.  To prepare the grapefruit, cut off the top and bottom of one grapefruit to help steady that fruit.  Lay one of the flat ends on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, remove the skin and white pith.  Over the bowl, carefully run your knife between the fruit and the membrane to separate each grapefruit segment, removing any seeds.  Add the juice from the remaining grapefruit and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Set aside.

On a cutting board, pat those scallops dry, baby!  Season with salt and pepper.  Get a large saute pan screaming hot and place scallops seasoned side down into the dry pan.  Season the other side.  After three minutes, turn scallops (they should easily release from the pan) and cook for another two minutes.  Remove scallops from pan and immediately de glaze with Pernod.

The delish dish made with oranges.
Plating Bonanza:  nice little mound of relish in center of the plate, top with scallops, and finish with the Pernod love from the pan.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


No fuss.

Consider a spinach salad with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, thinly sliced red onions sprinkled with ricotta salata, basil, and tarragon dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Are you considering?

I said, "Consider!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I am a practical person who has lived on a budget all of his life. Aside from the dining room table I bought for my 30th birthday, I tend to shy away from extravagant purchases or gigantic splurges.

Unless it comes to food.

Then I have no problem spending away. A $250 meal in Napa is completely's Michael Chiarello! $600 a month in groceries...I needed them.  Splurging on a whole salmon to make barbecue gravlax...?  Um, hello!  It was Tuesday...

So now I find myself soon to be without a regular paycheck.

But, mama still gotta eat good.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention (and Improvisation)!

Black Bean Cakes with Poached Egg and Avocado Cream

The egg makes for a delicious sauce. The avocado pushes it over the top!
This spicy little dish is perfect for brunch on a hot summer day and surprisingly easy to make! I'm sure you could be lah-dee-dah about it and soak your beans, but canned worked just fine.

Yields 6 cakes

2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup pepadew peppers, minced
1 Chipotle pepper, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbl flour, plus 1/4 cup for dredging
2 Tbl cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
salt n' pepper

In a large bowl, mash up 2/3 of the beans using a potato masher.  Add remaining ingredients, including reserved beans, and stir to thoroughly combine ingredients. Roll up your sleeves, cuz it's gonna get messy.  Pat mixture into 6 cakes, approximately 3 inches in diameter.  Dredge each cake in flour.

Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook cakes for 7-10 minutes or until crisp enough to flip. Once flipped, cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Top each cake with Avocado Cream and a poached egg.

Avocado Cream

1 avocado
2 Tbl low fat Greek yogurt
Juice of one lime
pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt n' pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or food processor until smooth.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Hints on Perfectly Poached Eggs

* Make sure you use a large enough pot
* Add at least 3 Tbl white vinegar to simmering water
* Stir the water in one direction before adding the eggs.  The swirl will allow the eggs to fold back onto themselves creating the perfect little package.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Something Refreshing

In Memphis, it is 112.

I took my dog outside, and, if we stood in one place for too long of a time, he would lift up his wee, pork cop legs in a sad little "Burning Paw" dance.

As I have said, it is Africa hot.

Time to cool down and start a Harry Potter marathon.

Watermelon and Cucumber Sparkler

This refreshing little drink is great on its own, but feel free to spike it with either Hendrick's gin or cucumber vodka for a tasty adult beverage.

2 cups watermelon, cubed
1 cup cucumber, chopped
2 Tbl lime juice
1 Tbl honey
1 liter sparkling water
mint to garnish

Throw watermelon, cucumber, lime juice, and honey into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.  Pass mixture through a sieve extracting only the juice.  Pour into a pitcher and add sparkling water.  Stir well.  Serve over ice and garnish with mint.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Butt Is Going to the Beach...

...time to bust out the salad.

Caesar Salad with Asiago Crisps

The addition of arugula and cherry tomatoes brighten up the flavor of the romaine.  The crisps just make it a party.

2 heads romaine lettuce
I know 'chovies aren't everyone's cup of tea, but try 'em! You'll like 'em
2 cups arugula
1/12 cups cherry tomatoes
12 anchovy fillets (3 for each plate)

For The Best Damn Caesar Dressing Ever

4 anchovy fillets (oil packed)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 egg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp capers
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2Tbl Worcestershire sauce
a couple of dashes of hot sauce (I like Chipotle Tabasco)
ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil
In a small food processor, combine all ingredients except for oil. Mash it up good, until garlic, capers, and anchovies have become a paste. With the motor running, slowly add oil until dressing has thickened.  Pour over torn romaine and arugula.  Toss to combine.  Plate salad and top anchovies, tomatoes, and crisps.

For the Asiago Crisps

1/2 cup Asiago cheese, finely grated
Yields 12 crisps

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Sil-pad.  Arrange cheese in about 1" mounds.  Be sure to space them out as they will spread when you bake them.  Place on the middle rack of the oven.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Carefully remove from baking sheet using a spatula, they will be warm!  If you are feeling fancy, try laying them over the handle of a wooden spoon while they are still warm to create a fluted shape.